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Re: Our Southwest Trip, Version B

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Our Southwest Trip, Version B
June 25, 2018 08:12PM
The plan was a month-long trip to the Southwest, visiting all the big-name parks: Great Basin, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde, plus Escalante, and The Toyabe National Forest south of Austin, NV. At least four backpacking overnights, maybe one longer trip. Lots of day hikes, from the Narrows and Angel’s Landing in Zion to slots canyons in Escalante…

That was the plan.

But M was diagnosed with tendonitis in her heel following our adventure last month in the Grand Canyon, and so that plan didn’t look so good. She would be walking for the next six weeks with a plastic boot on her left foot. The fact that my left knee seemed to be intent on causing me pain with every step I took didn’t improve the situation. We had made reservations at Zion and Arches, and our daughter was flying out and meet us a week around Moab, but we needed a new plan.

So what do you do in that situation? We decided to go anyway. We would take it easy, and we would just have to see how much hiking we could do. In any case, we were determined NOT to make things worse with either of us, because we still have our backpacking plans in the Sierra later this summer—If possible. Sigh.

In the end, this turned out to be a really good trip, and we did get to do just a bit of hiking---a total of about 65 miles, nothing major—but this would serve as a very good outline for anyone who is considering a trip to Utah and its neighbors and doesn’t want to hike their feet off. We didn’t, thank goodness. And we’re still hoping to do some backpacking this summer.

What did we love? The parks are stunning. We added the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the list above and loved them all. Great Basin was empty and beautiful. Zion was jammed packed and still lovely. Bryce was comparatively cool and delicious. Capitol Reef had the best petroglyphs. Canyonlands was great fun. Arches was stunning…and packed with people. Mesa Verde was unforgettable, and cool. North Rim changed our perceptions of the Grand Canyon a bit.

But other parks also enchanted us. Cedar Breaks is amazing, and the petroglyphs in Parowan Gap and Sego Canyon were the best ever. Red Canyon was charming. Dead Horse Point is great. Hovenweep was a jewel. Edge of the Cedars museum in astonishing. Natural Bridges and the road south from there are simply astounding. And little parks like Berlin/ichthyosaurus and Fort Churchill State Park were just what we wanted, when we wanted it.

We saw highway signs warning us about dairy cattle, wild cattle, wild horses, horseback riders, deer, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, pedestrians, and marmots (!)
We also saw dairy cattle, wild cattle, wild horses, horseback riders, deer, bison, pedestrians and marmots. No bighorn sheep or elk, dang it. But we’d seen elk in the Grand Canyon six weeks ago—does that count?

We were thoroughly impressed with how friendly, helpful, and cheerful the park service staff was in every park: well-trained, enthusiastic, and fun. Makes us proud just to think about it.
And while we didn’t do any long hikes, we did manage quite a few really good short ones, nothing more than five miles: Emerald Pools and Kayenta Trail in Zion; Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop in Bryce; two really nice short trails in Red Canyon; Devil’s Garden in Arches; Mesa Arch and Aztec Butte in Canyonlands; the Castle Canyon trail in Hovenweep, Bighorn Viewpoint in Dead Horse Point, and lots of viewpoint walks that were never too long, but added up to lots of Advil every night.

We even found some pretty good places to eat. We loved Magnolia’s Food Truck in Boulder, Utah, in the parking lot of Anasazi State Park. And yummy and healthy food at the Capitol Reef Inn in Torrey. Lots of good food in Moab. Best of all was 707 Food Bin in Grand Junction…go figure.

And we wouldn’t be back home without the help of Randy Pixley of Maxwell’s Garage in Cortez…who fixed out van quickly, effectively, and cheaply when we were really stuck with no other options.

About 4000 miles of driving. About $100 a day in expenses (including gas for Le Vin Blanc..our Ford E-350 van.) And even one night in a hotel—Whoooey!

If you’d like to read the whole report, Part I starts here: https://sites.google.com/site/backpackthesierra/home/our-blog/backfromthesouthwest

And after each section of the blog, we have a link to more photos, just in case you are completely masochistic.

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: Our Southwest Trip, Version B
July 05, 2018 03:17PM
Thank you for the great trip report. We have done many of the places you went to and reading about your trip makes me want to go again. I agree, the north rim of the Grand Canyon is fantastic.

Just read your blog and can't wait for the next one. Years ago on the way to the North Rim, we stopped at Pipe Springs but it had closed 10 minutes before we got there. My son was young and was trying to get as many passport stamps as he could and started to cry. Two nice park rangers saw him crying and opened the visitor center so we could go inside and he could stamp his book and said that since they had to check the grounds before they locked the gate, we could walk around while they did that. Those two young women's kindness made our day.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/05/2018 03:27PM by parklover.
Re: Our Southwest Trip, Version B
July 05, 2018 03:34PM
I forgot to add something. I had to laugh at your picture of the bison at the north rim. When we went there, we had no idea that there were bison there. On our way out, I mentioned that the area reminds me of Wyoming and were we would always see bison. Low and behold, walking towards us was a huge male bison. When we stopped at the entrance station, we asked the park ranger how many bison live there and her answer was " Pffttttt, who the heck knows." LOL
Re: Our Southwest Trip, Version B
July 05, 2018 04:39PM
I keep hearing great things about the Mighty 5 in Utah. So many
places; so little time.

Went to the Grand Canyon in Feb. So did everybody who ever lived
west of the Rockies. And their brothers, sisters and uncles. Probably
a spectacular place, but not on that day.

Your photo of the window reflection is fabulous. Thanks for the report.
Re: Our Southwest Trip, Version B
July 05, 2018 09:52PM
These places are crowded. But so is Yosemite. We still loved the trip, and would go back to many of them again...

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: Our Southwest Trip, Version B
July 16, 2018 12:32AM
Yes, the well known places are crowded. Not much we can do about that as everybody wants to see it although most of them don't see much more than the parking lots + 100 yds walking.

The Southwest offers ENDLESS places of great solitude and spectacular surroundings. It surely matches the Sierra Nevada and frankly because of the diversity of the landscape it has more to offer if you would like to see different places. But it can be dangerous going alone and off the beaten path and the desert is unforgiving.

Concerning the Grand Canyon: the South Rim probably has "better" views (and more visitors) but I prefer the North Rim and the whole plateau on the north side. Much quieter and there great places with plenty of solitude (even those once considered hidden gems like Toroweap will offer you plenty of solitude now that it has been in every guide book for many years).
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